Suffering the deaths of two infant children seems an unbearable experience, and Nancy and David are eloquent about their grief. But both feel they've learned much about how to live life and how to live with God, even through pain. Nancy's account of her children's lives, "Holding on to Hope," uses the Book of Job to explain how faith can co-exist with trouble, and to help those suffering as Nancy did. Recently, Beliefnet talked to Nancy and David about faith, loss and love.
"Holding on to Hope" has been described as a meditation on the Book of Job. In that story, God tests Job's faith to prove a point to Satan. It almost seems like a game, as if Job's suffering is senseless.
Nancy: It wasn't at all a game. And certainly Job didn't see it as senseless. All along he believed there was a reason for his suffering, even though God didn't completely spell his purposes out. Job came to a place where he was able to submit to it. He recognized that part of God's character is that he's a redeemer.
So Job came out as a better person?
Amazingly enough--and with a life that can be described as good. One translation says "And Job died having lived a long, good life." I was like, really? That's not how I think about Job's life. But it's the truth.
Do you think your experience with Hope and Gabriel is part of your good life?
Nancy: My life has been enriched and deepened by what I've experienced--and by how I've responded to it. Does that mean it was a good thing? I wouldn't go that far. But I would say God has used it for good in my life. There's a difference. I don't regret these past three or four years. There are days I wish Hope and Gabe were here and healthy, and that everything I learned from it-well, forget it. But I've been really blessed by what I've experienced, including my loss.
In the end Job says to God, thankfully, "You've revealed yourself to me." Why does God reveal himself in such remote and strange ways?
Nancy: I'm not anywhere near smart enough to answer that. What I would say is, maybe you went on a road trip with someone, or worked on a project with them and slept on bunk beds for a week. After that, you feel really know that person. When we've done something difficult with someone, we know them in a more intimate way than we could just sitting on a patio drinking mai-tai's. Perhaps that's a way God reveals himself to us. He reveals himself in way he can't through comfort and ease.
David: At some point you have to accept that if a loving God doesn't cause evil and harm, he must allow it. That's obvious. But when people ask did God do this, they are really asking, How can a loving God cause you to suffer so greatly?
I don't think this was a Job-like experience where God, sitting in heaven, said to Satan, let me show you how faithful the Guthries can be, let me visit this calamity on them. When a bird craps on my head, I don't say, "Okay, God gave me that to learn something." But I will confess that Nancy and I have often said, "God has called us to be faithful and desires for to learn and honor him by how we react to this whole thing."
Nancy: We both have the recessive gene for this syndrome and face genetic odds that caused it to happen. By that we don't mean God was completely uninvolved, but it was very natural. A lot of suffering is the result of living in a broken, fallen world, with broken, fallen people experiencing the natural consequences of decisions we make and people all around us make.
These days we're told anger is an affirmative reaction. How have you dealt with anger?
Nancy: I haven't. I'd like to say I had, so I could appease people who feel I should have. But I haven't. My most profound emotion has been disappointment.
Disappointed with God?
Nancy: Just disappointed. Our culture, and specifically our Christian culture, has gotten so casual with God. We think of God as our friend, or Jesus as our helper. We're missing the sense of fear of God. That's not a fear of expressing your anger. It's a reverential awe that makes you so slow to point a finger of blame at God. It's a hand upturned, saying, "I don't get it! This doesn't seem fair. Show me, and help me." That's the big question mark for us when we suffer. Are we going to blame God, or are we not?
David: It's too simplistic to say, when we're going through something that hurts, that everything we believed in before doesn't seem to fit now. God's purposes may be hidden from us, but we're not going to wait until they're explained to our satisfaction before we do our best to embrace it and live it and even find meaning in it.